'Devastating' additional cut 'decimates' adult skills budget

Darren Evans

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Colleges and training providers will be hit by a further cut to their non-apprenticeship adult skills budgets, it was revealed today.

A letter to the sector from the Skills Funding Agency (SFA) says that funding for adult skills will be reduced by a further 3.9 per cent for the 2015-16 financial year.

FE colleges and other providers were already reeling from an unexpected 11 per cent cut to the 2015-16 adult skills budget, announced by the SFA in February.

Together with cuts from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, the SFA estimates that funds available for other non-apprenticeship adult skills will be reduced by almost a quarter (24 per cent) as a result.

The agency writes that it has applied the latest 3.9 per cent reduction to all 2015-16 allocations in order to “mitigate any disproportionate impact” on individual colleges and other training organisations.

“Nevertheless, it goes without saying that some of you will find a further reduction in your funding difficult to manage,” the letter says. “We will contact those of you most affected by these changes to help you review your circumstances.”

Colleges have been given until 30 September to submit updated plans.

The letter also says that the SFA will withdraw funding for “Esol (English for speakers of other languages) plus mandation” programmes. These were introduced to require Jobseeker’s Allowance claimants with poor spoken English to improve their language skills in order to continue receiving benefits. 

However, it confirms the agency will fund all apprenticeship growth requests for the 2014-15 funding year.

Julian Gravatt, assistant chief executive of the Association of Colleges (AoC), said the latest cut would have a “devastating impact” on the work colleges do in educating and training adults.

He added: “Without this funding, adult education will be decimated, meaning an end to vital courses which provide skilled employees for the workforce.”

He warned the Esol cut could isolate whole communities, leaving many people unable to integrate.

David Hughes, chief executive of adult education body Niace, said: “The 3.9 per cent cut comes after multi-year cuts which have greatly reduced chances for people to learn. Once again the priority of apprenticeships is clear. There is no doubt that apprenticeships have an important role...but they are not the complete answer to every challenge facing the economy.”

He also described the Esol cut as “extremely disappointing".

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Darren Evans

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